Thankful Thursday: He calls us HIGHER!

callingWho are you? What are you designed for? What is your purpose on this earth? How are you identified by others?  How do you see yourself?  And what about your friends and family ? Who are they? How would you describe them to someone?  Do you see them the same way they see themselves?  How does God see all of us?

I’ve been thinking about identity quite a bit over the past few months.  I’ve been thinking about this idea of calling people up to all that God has planned for them to be.  I’ve been thinking about what that looks like with my family and friends and what my role in that is supposed to be.  If you have been reading my blog at all you know I’ve been taking a closer look at God as my Father for clues about how parenting my own children is really supposed to look.  I’ve had many discussions in various arenas about how to effectively parent my girls so that they grow up to fulfill the plan that God designed them for.  I really want more for my girls than for them to be upstanding, law-abiding citizens.  I want those things too, but I want their lives to count in the Kingdom and it seems to me that is an even bigger challenge that requires something different out of me.  I heard a statistic today that 90% of children from Christian homes are leaving churches when they graduate High School.  I want to raise my girls to be in the top 10% of their class.  I don’t want that so they are in a church building every time the doors open.  I want them in a healthy, intimate relationship with their Maker serving in His Kingdom.  That is their destiny.

I’ve had more than one person advise me to speak to the person they are to become, not the person they are being at the moment.  I’ve been told to approach them as the person that God has planned for them to be.  I’ve been told to call them up to a higher standard.

This week I was sitting in a group and the 10 commandments and the Sermon on the Mount came up in the discussion.  The discussion was centered on the old covenant vs. the new covenant….law vs. grace.  I joked that I bet the Pharisees actually liked the Sermon on the Mount because it may have looked to them like Jesus was making harder rules to follow.  He was stepping it up a notch.  I just imagine that the Pharisees saw a golden opportunity in that to exact more control over people in order to make them follow these stricter rules.  I have no basis for that belief.  It just strikes me as a possibility and a mind-set of people who want to live under the law even after Jesus resurrection and finished work on the cross.

The Ten Commandments

20 And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” – Exodus 20:1-17

And then look what Jesus said when he came along and started teaching Kingdom principles to His followers…

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[f] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[g]

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I have to admit I’ve looked at those scriptures before and wondered how that is a better covenant.  I mean, really, no one could keep the Ten Commandments perfectly and that is why we needed the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus Christ and then he comes along and makes them even harder to follow?  But I realized for the first time today that I have been looking at it wrong.  I’ve been looking at it from the standpoint of the law.  I’ve been looking at it from my own fleshly perspective.  He didn’t just call us to stricter rules, he actually loved on us and called us to a higher standard.  He had faith in us that we could live a higher calling.  He also knew we were going to have something the people under the Old Covenant didn’t have.  We were going to have a Helper…so why not call us to a higher standard?  Why not have faith in us?

“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the [c]Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. – John 16:5-15

God didn’t do what I think most parents do when their kids break a rule…at least I find myself wanting to do this.  He didn’t lower the rules and make them easier to follow.  He didn’t take away their freedom to choose because they made a bad choice.  When He offered grace and love and atonement He didn’t give us the right to do whatever we wanted from that point on because, hey, His grace covers up all our sin.  Nope…He stepped in and called us to a higher standard…one worthy of a life of Royalty.  And He did it with grace and love and the offer of the best HELP we could ever hope to have…His indwelling Presence.

THAT is a GOOD and LOVING and RIGHTEOUS FATHER!!!  Thank you God for the faith you placed in your people!

Give me a to!

 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Glory to Glory…sounds great doesn’t it?  Well the bookends do….glory…glory.  The last word sounds really good since this implies the second glory is better than the first.  The second glory looks and acts more like Jesus.  That is what I want…to look more like Him every day…to act more like him…to treat others more like he would treat them…to speak more like him…to love God more like him…to be more like him…to do more of what He did.

But to get to the next glory…you have to get thru that middle part.  You have to MOVE from one place to the next.  I don’t know about any of you, but moving from one place to the next isn’t always a barrel of laughs.  If you move from one house to another you know what I mean.  All the packing and discarding and cleaning and moving and unpacking and decorating.  It is hard work to move from one place to another even if you are excited about where you are going.

Moving up in a career is much the same way.  You have to go to classes to learn new things.  Many times you are building on something you have learned at some other time.  But sometimes you have to learn something completely new that you had never heard of.  Or you are asked to do something a new way.  I think many company’s like to hire at an entry-level and promote from within because they can train their people to do things their way from the very beginning.  Less to undo and re-teach.

What about our spiritual lives?  What about being transformed from glory to glory?  That is actually quite a process.  You may get to build on whatever foundation you have, but sometimes you have to give up faulty belief systems.  And even if you don’t have any faulty beliefs you need to undo, you may have hurts or hangups created by events from your past that need to be healed in order for you to get to the next thing God has for you…the next glory.  Sometimes giving up things you’ve held as sacred cows can be a painful process.  Sometimes allowing God to come in and transform and heal a place of brokenness can feel very scary.  You have learned to function very well with those things.  Moving on without them may seem much more daunting than carrying those heavy bags.  But what if you can’t go where He is leading you with all the things you have collected in those bags?  What if He needs to lighten your load?  What if He needs to lead you thru a wilderness on the way to the next glorious place with Him?  What if a valley is the only way to get from one mountain top to another?

And maybe you don’t have any faulty belief systems or hurts that need to be healed or sins that need to be forgiven.  I’m not sure I believe you, but what if that is the case?  What would glory to glory look like in that case?  Maybe it would be God revealing  new things in scripture to you that you had not seen before.  Maybe it would be God teaching you something new about yourself.  Maybe it would be you learning a new thing for ministry that He has called you to.

It looks to me like any way you move from one glory to another requires change.  It requires transformation.  It requires a willingness to submit to what God is doing in your life.  It may require sweat and tears.  It may require hard work and sleepless nights.  It may require leaving something behind in order to gain something new.  It may happen overnight or it may take years, but it always requires forward movement.

And yes…sometimes it is “hell in the hallway”…but isn’t glory to glory worth it?